Hundreds of people walked in pilgrimage through the streets of downtown Chicago on Oct. 19, mostly in silence, wearing white ribbons on their arms and carrying signs asking for immigration reform, especially an end to deportations of undocumented immigrants who are not criminals and are separated from their families, which often include U.S. citizen children.
The pilgrims made their way from Holy Name Cathedral, 735 N. State St., to Daley Plaza, at Dearborn and Washington streets, for more prayers and speeches. They then walked to Old St. Mary’s Church, 1500 S. Michigan Ave., for a closing prayer service. Overall, participants walked about three miles in a journey that took more than four hours.
Two groups of 11 people each started the pilgrimage a day earlier, walking into downtown Chicago from the congressional districts of Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs). The groups represented the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, said Elena Segura, director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education.
At Old St. Mary’s, she acknowledged that the pilgrimage was long, and the walkers were tired and hungry. But so are undocumented immigrants who have been waiting years for comprehensive immigration reform, she said.
“We have been doing this since 2005, and we are still walking,” said Segura, speaking of the beginning of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops campaign for immigration reform, which coincided with a push for legislation in Washington that ultimately failed. “All of us are tired and hungry.”
Immigration reform advocates now are at a place of hope, Segura said, with President Barack Obama naming the issue as one of his priorities in the wake of the Oct. 1-16 government shutdown. This pilgrimage was part of the 40-day plus campaign of Prayer, Fasting and Action for Congress until the Vote.
Segura said that pilgrims walked in silence as a way to make themselves heard.
“Silence is powerful,” she said. “Silence is loud. Silence is the language of the Lord.”
Cardinal George, who could not attend the pilgrimage because of another commitment, spoke to the group via telephone. Their action, he said, is that of the Body of Christ, “of one Catholic community walking together on the journey of our common faith.”
He also spoke of being in a moment where there is an opportunity for the government to do the right thing.
“What’s at stake here is the human family and the household of the Lord,” he said.